A MOTORIST told an inquest how a Gwent teacher appeared to be struggling to control her car seconds before it careered off a dual carriageway and came to rest on its roof after hitting a concrete culvert wall.
Janette Sutherland, 48, of Ebbw Vale, died in the crash on the A467 near Risca, on October 24 last year, Gwent Coroner’s Court in Newport was told.
The teacher had been returning home from Bryn Celyn Primary School in Cardiff, where she had worked for 19 years.
Witness Aled Capelin told deputy Gwent coroner Wendy James he was driving along the road, in the inside lane at about 60mph, when his passenger alerted him to a car that was overtaking him.
“I looked over and saw the car losing control. The front was moving back and forth,” he said.
“I could see the driver’s face. She seemed to be panicking. She was sitting back in the seat and struggling with the steering wheel.”
He described seeing the car, which he estimated to be travelling at 65-70mph, continue past before appearing to hit the central reservation, spin onto the outside verge, hit a wall and turn over.
Fellow motorist Graham Read, behind Miss Sutherland and Mr Capelin’s cars, said he saw sparks and the car bounce off the barrier of the central reservation.
It then spun in front of Mr Capelin’s car, hit the culvert wall, and landed on its roof.
A police investigation – including a study of tyre marks at the scene – concluded Miss Sutherland was travelling at just over 60mph at the time, within the speed limit. There were no defects with the car, and no evidence of mobile phone use.
Her father Clyde Sutherland told the inquest he considered his daughter to be a competent and safe driver who had held a driving licence for around 30 years. She used the A467 as a regular route to and from work. A post mortem examination concluded that Miss Sutherland died of multiple injuries and blunt vehicular trauma. There was no evidence of drugs or alcohol in her system.
Ms James said she could not ascertain from the evidence presented what had caused Miss Sutherland to lose control of the car.
She recorded a verdict of accidental death and intends to ask the Highways Agency for an explanation as to why there is no crash barrier in front of the culvert wall that might prevent vehicles from hitting it.
l Miss Sutherland had been an avid fan of Ebbw Vale Rugby Football Club for many years, and her death was marked by the team dedicating its victory at Newbridge the following weekend, to her.
A tribute on the club’s website called her “a long-time, passionate supporter who will be sadly missed by everyone who knew her”.